By: Adam Stone

Why most "SEO" companies aren't worth the money for car dealers

The ever elusive “silver bullet.” Dealers across the country are always holding out hope that one exists and there is no shortage of vendors out there trying to keep the dream alive. The most successful dealers in the country know that the only way to achieve spectacular results is by working harder AND smarter. They know that you need a detailed plan and the discipline to follow through and that there is not one or two tactics or vendors that can change everything with some “behind the scenes” magic. That said, there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t hear from different dealers around the country asking me if the “SEO” proposal they received will help them. While there are best practices for SEO that every dealer should practice, the majority of “SEO” proposals I see involve outdated and unmeasurable tactics and false promises.

Three “SEO” services to avoid:

1) Link Building – Don’t get me wrong, credible, quality links back to your site still remain very valuable when they are done in an authentic way based on public relationships with other companies, quality PR efforts and other legitimate affiliations. That is NOT what most “SEO” companies are offering dealers. Any “back-link” services are usually quantity over quality and are easily identified as garbage by search engines and you will most likely be penalized for this.

2) Content – Again, unique content that is written or produced for your customers and not for the search engines will by far have the most value for you. This is hard to do and needs to be done by someone that understands your business. A lot of what I have seen is vendors offering duplicate content (without disclosing it) and putting it on your site. Or just spewing keywords on a page that serves no value to your customers. Make sure if you are having a vendor put content on your site that it is indeed unique content that a customer would actually value and you would want to promote.

3) Redirects – Redirects when done correctly will help your site. They are usually used when you move your site from one address or platform to another or when you are consolidating content on your site. If that is why you are using redirects then it is legitimate. What is not legitimate is something known as “cloaking.” This is when you try and display content to humans that is different than what you are telling the search engines. If this happens your site can end up in violation of Google’s accepted guidelines and if caught you can get a penalty that can severely affect your rankings. If a vendor talks about “redirects” make sure they can detail their strategy to you and that it is above board.

Bottom Line

Don’t spend time and money trying to win over the search engines. Spend time and money trying to win over your customers. Certainly there are some best practices for both on-site SEO and off-site SEO that should be followed. Most of these best practices are transparent, common sensical and affordable. They are also usually part of a well thought out integrated marketing plan. The easiest way to identify a SEO vendor that will waste your time and money is to just listen to their pitch and if they are promising that you will start to rank for product keywords over other dealers then you know they are full of it. The fact is that it has been years since anyone has had access to the majority of organic keywords that drives traffic to their sites and Google’s algorithm is too smart to award better ranking on product keywords to different dealers based on outdated linking strategies, bad content or a crazy redirect strategy.

Most of these best practices are transparent, common sensical and affordable. They are also usually part of a well thought out integrated marketing plan.

Three things to do to IMPROVE your SEO:

1) Have a mobile-friendly site – It’s no secret that 50% or more of your traffic is on a mobile device and Google knows it. They have been very public about the fact that you will be penalized if your site isn’t mobile friendly. Get a responsive or adaptive dealer website today. Three vendors I have been impressed with are Jazel Auto (responsive), Dealer Inspire (responsive) and (adaptive). To test your site’s mobile friendliness click here to test it on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.

2) Create a blog with product reviews and comparisons – A couple months back my good friend Kent Solomon wrote a great blog entry on Linkedin detailing what type of information in-market shoppers are searching during their buying “process.” Kent used Google’s Keyword Tool to illustrate that the most commonly searched topics are industry trends, vehicle comparisons and what’s new on the lot. When I was the Director of Marketing at Prime Motor Group that is exactly what we blogged about on the company blog, DrivePrime News, which we promoted via email to all of Prime’s customers. In addition to being great content for Prime’s customers, the content ended up having significant organic value and different entries not only showed up in organic searches in high volume every month but also transitioned customers to vehicle display pages. This sort of content creation is a part of the holistic approach to dealer marketing at my company Octane Marketing. To learn more go to our website

3) Organize, Monitor and Manage your key directory listings – NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. Having consistent and accurate NAP across the most important directory sites online like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MerchantCircle, SuperPages etc. is incredibly important to showing up for local searches regarding your dealership. Sounds easy but in fact, this information is constantly changing and it requires some software (there are lots of options here) and most of the time a trusted marketing partner to keep an eye on this for you.

Certainly, there is a place for SEO and you should make sure a marketing professional reviews your website to ensure that it is optimized correctly and that you have elements in your marketing plan that promote your dealership off-site. Aside from that, you are better off spending time and money promoting your brand, communicating with your database and educating and informing your customers about the products and services you provide.

If you are a car dealer and are looking at your SEO and find yourself confused feel free to reach out and I will be happy to discuss further. In the meantime, here is a great article by Ryan Stewart published on that is worth a read.

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